Congratulations to Phil Skelton – Outstanding Achievement Award winner for February 2018

Congratulations to our February South East Radio, Talbot Hotel Outstanding Achievement Award Winner, Phil Skelton.

Phil is a member of Slaney Cycling Club based in Enniscorthy.  The club is very strong with approximately 60 members. He is a keen cyclist and is the ‘go to man’ in the club for safety on the road.  He contributes so much and has worked on many road safety projects at local and National Level.  Phil’s advice to anyone taking up cycling is to get a check-up from your doctor before starting, to help avoid any potential health issues.

In April 2013, Phil set up the Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 campaign with the intention of liaising with the RSA, County Councils and cycling groups etc.  The campaign itself is a 2 pronged campaign with the aim of:-

  • Creating awareness around the safe overtaking of cyclists in line with best international practice and
  • Pursuing the adoption of a law that would require motorists to gives cyclists a minimum passing distance when overtaking, in line with what 45 jurisdictions worldwide have done.

International experience has shown that best results in this area are obtained when awareness is underscored with legislation in order to allow the message to crystallise.

Legislative change though, can be difficult to achieve, but Phil saw the absolute need for it and set about this difficult task.

The creation of the Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 campaign itself was driven by a real life experience:  In 2012-2013, just eight months apart, two bicycle riders tragically lost their lives on Wexford roads in same direction collisions.

In between these fatalities, Bunclody native, Phil Skelton was clipped into a ditch by an overtaking car.

Rather than give up an activity he really loved, he did some research to see what other countries have done about this particular problem.  Many had introduced a cyclist specific minimum passing distance law and had seen positive change as a result.  These work by clarifying to drivers, how much space is safe when overtaking, a message not previously rolled out in Ireland prior to the Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 campaign.

As a driver himself, Phil felt that many such close passing manoeuvres were borne out of lack of awareness rather than malicious intent and set about this task.

It’s important for cyclists to have this minimum passing virtual space on the road as there is little designated cycling infrastructure across Ireland. This means that there are many occasions where cyclists and motorists share road space. Cyclists do not have the same protections as car occupants and the disproportionate vulnerability means that in collisions, a rider will always come off second best. Same direction near misses and collisions are common so it is crucial that we make this overtaking manoeuvre, a safe one.

When a rider is on a bicycle, they are only one pot hole or one driver distraction away from becoming another road statistic. Allowing the recommended minimum passing distance of 1.5 M creates a safe margin for error. If you put out your two arms and close your fists that is roughly 1.5m.  His message is ‘If you don’t have that space, then please hang back until you do’.

Cycling Ireland, the governing body for competitive cycling in Ireland have introduced a Cycle Right scheme which trains children at school on how to cycle properly and how to engage in a basic way in traffic.  Phil is one of its official instructors. Be Safe and Be Seen is important, but you also have to be understood when you are on the road. This is the campaign motto.

Phil was shocked when he became the February winner of the Outstanding Achievement Awards.  He has done so much for the cycling community and for Road Safety.

Well done from all of us here in South East Radio and the Talbot Hotel, Wexford.  Everyone who rides a bike is being protected by this law and we owe Phil a great deal of gratitude.  He has brought the profile of cycling to a new level.  People need to share the road in a responsible manner and because of Phil we now have a law there to protect everybody.

He said ‘to win an accolade like this is a massive honour’.

Phil’s Achievements include:

  • 1.5 metre Road signage and council vehicle signage
  • ‘See the Person, Pass with Care’ project with Wexford Co. Co.
  • The creation of 4 safe passing awareness ads with Wexford Co. Co.
  • Assisted with current Road Safety Authority TV safe passing video
  • Distribution of over 70,000 safe passing awareness vehicle stickers
  • The creation and management of social media pages reaching up to 1.25 million people per week
  • Designing Ireland’s first safe cycling jersey with a specific safety message
  • Voluntary work with RSA with an awareness floor mat that Phil designed at National Ploughing Championships & Tullamore Show
  • Awareness sessions with groups such as E.S.B. etc.
  • Attending a broad range of national events including motor shows, insurance shows, home shows etc. helping to raise awareness
  • Message promotion with celebrities such as Sonia O Sullivan, Seán Kelly, Joanna Donnelly etc.
  • Assisted Rule of the Road change
  • Lobbied for and negotiated legislation change (see below)#

Personal awards:

  • Irish Road Victims Association, Light of Hope award
  • RSA special recognition award (presented to Maurice McCabe this year)
  • Society of Irish Motor Industry/RSA outstanding contribution award
  • Cycling Ireland Volunteer of the year runner-up

In early 2018 Phil convinced the Minister for Transport, Shane Ross to bring forward safe passing legislation. This is now with the Attorney General’s office.

2018 saw a reduction in cyclist fatalities of 40% and no cyclist has been killed on a Wexford road since the commencement of the SAA1.5 campaign.

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